Contracting out of services in the Water Industry

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2017 Water, Environment & Transport Conference
20 February 2017

Much of the water industry does not directly deliver key services, but instead contract them out to private sector organisations. The kinds of services contracted out include meter reading, water pipe maintenance, water testing and facilities services. For those employees who are transferred to a new employer this can mean huge uncertainty over their jobs and almost inevitable moves to degrade their terms and conditions of employment. For those people who are directly employed by the contractor after the point of transfer it can mean working alongside people doing the same job, but on worse terms and conditions – the two-tier workforce.

UNISON has consistently opposed the practice of fragmenting service delivery both because of the impact it has on workers and the long-term impact on service quality. Performance league tables on issues such as leakages consistently show that those in the water industry who directly deliver services outperforming those that contract out.

Conference believes that UNISON branches organising in the Water Industry should take a two-pronged approach to this issue: both encouraging the water industry to insource their services and recruiting and organising more effectively with private contractors operating within the industry.

Conference calls on the WET Service Group Executive to:

1. Issue a briefing to all WET branches on the topic of outsourcing in the water industry, referencing the relevant UNISON guidance and training to support branches dealing with fragmentation.

2. Raise the issue of outsourcing with the water industry via the consultative forums which OFWAT organise with Water UK and to which the trade unions are invited.

3. Include how to organise within private sector contractors as a topic within the recruitment and organising training provided to branches.

4. Highlight this crucial issue in UNISON’s ‘Network’ Magazine, the dedicated UNISON magazine for WET members.